Tag Archives: Mike Schreiner

Let the finger pointing begin

By Gerry Barker

March 18, 3019

Opinion

We elected two men to represent our interests. Sitting in the Ontario Legislature is Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party. With only himself in the Legislature, his party is not an official party under the rule of the Legislature.

The other is Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield, a backbencher in the Trudeau government who is facing re-election this October.

Now, as I understand it, last time the election of the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario June 7, split the cozy relationship between the Ottawa Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Queen’s Park Liberal government of former Premier Kathleen Wynne.

With recent events involving the SNC Lavalin affair, is this a good time to be a Liberal?

MPP Mike Schreiner, after spending $119,000 to get elected, has metaphorically become the Maytag, repairman in the Legislature after accepting his huge victory in Guelph. Now that he’s there he has no power, no support in the Legislature and no influence.

In the lyrics of the Irish Rovers: “Wasn’t that a party?”

But Schreiner is there for four years and Guelph voters, by a wide margin, put him there.

Along comes Mr. Longfield who blames the provincial government for “not being open for business.”

That’s rich coming from a federal MP who sat in the House of Commons for almost four years saying nary a word condemning the Liberal government of Premier Wynne for not keeping Ontario open for business.

What’s that expression? If you want to win an election start a fight.

That nervous rattle you hear among the Trudeau Liberals is the dessention of voters over many areas of Liberal power. Starting with The SNC Lavalin fiasco that has cost the party it’s Attorney General and Justice Minister and the Minister of Health.

As this is being written before the third cabinet shuffle in two months, what does it tell you about the internal management and stability of theTrudeau government?

The genesis of political finger pointing

Last year, the federal government signed a bilateral agreement with the province to distribute $10.4 billion of federal funds to Ontario municipalities.

To try and understand this, our city has one of the municipalities selelcted to receive funding for a number, including the new $63 million South End recreation Centre.

Mr. Longfield is said to be asking Mayor Cam Guthrie to pressure the provincial government to release the funds.

It is obvious that the city has been working diligently to move its projects forward.

Enter stage left: Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner who would be the logical contact to get things moving on the provincial level. Instead, Longfield wants the Mayor to act without mentioning the Green Party leader who represents Guelph.

What does Longfield know that we don’t?

The bilateral agreement included splitting the Federal money into four areas: Northern and rural; public transit; green initiatives and community; culture and recreational projects.

It comes to mind the Federal money that was spent by the Harper government in Cabinet member Tony Clements’s Muscoka riding to spruce  up the community for a visit by members of the G-20 meeting in Toronto. We all remember how that turned out.

Perhaps the Mayor should contact Mike Schreiner to help jump-start this funding.

The only problem, will the Tories listen to Schreiner?

 

 

 

 

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How do we get off the Bike Bandwagon?

By Gerry Barker

January 21, 2019

Opinion

The other night council received its first blush of the $87.37 million capital spending budget. Here’s where it will be spent providing that council and lobby groups don’t add to the total. That’s what usually happens during the budget process every year.

It is an unnatural opportunity for councillors to impress and placate their constituents. It is far too tempting with the power to spend the public’s money on projects to patronize the various special interest groups and individuals.

For starters, here’s the list of Capital spending projects produced by the staff:

  • $3.325 million for contaminated site-related projects.
  • $8.361 million for corporate projects, including planning studies, vehicles and equipment and facility renewal and expansion. This figures includes planning and strategic initiatives of Baker District and the beginning of the city’s Official Plan review.
  • $4.96 million for emergency services. The majority being directed at the expansion of paramedic services.
  • $7.916 million for open spaces, recreation, culture and library. This includes renewal of equipment and facilities and additional funds to progress the South End Community Centre project.
  • $3.107 million for solid waste. Includes planning and construction for a public drop-off scale.
  • $4.683 million for stormwater management. Including repair, renewal and replacement of assets.
  • $14.502 million for transportation services. Including bridges, culverts, roads and parking.
  • $13.104 million for wastewater services.
  • $27.445 million for water services. Includes water testing and studies at two new wells potentially to be used for city expansion.

More than 63 per cent of this proposed $55.051 million capital budget is being spent on three vital services all involving potable water, treating wastewater and building wells.

I’d be the last guy to complain about spending money on our vital use of clean water and developing new supplies to meet the needs of a growing population. With the 2016 census, Guelph has grown to 131,000 residents. Recent increase in newcomers is in the 10,000 per person range that the 2016 census reported for Guelph.

That means that by 2021 Guelph’s population will be 142,000 if the rate of growth remains the same as the previous census period.

I agree with the staff recommendation, water is the top priority.

That total water spending proposal does not include $4.683 million for storm water management that is in the capital budget. But property owners are already paying a special levy of one per cent for storwater maintenance. It used to be part of the operating budget but was transferred to the citizens for payment, monthly, through their Hydro bill.

Let’s talk about demands by the Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation. Translation: The tiny minority of cyclists who feel it is their right to travel the streets and be protected from those dirty, stinky and loud vehicles. They take it upon themselves to chiefly be responsible to support climate change by banning the use of fossil fuels.

But here’s the rub

Operators of motor vehicles pay taxes, licences and user fees to use the roads. In fact the City of Guelph, receives a gas tax rebated from the senior governments of more than $5 million annually. It’s rebated to the city not the people who previously paid for it at the pump. This results in the very people using fossil fueled vehicles end up subsidizing more bike lanes.

How much do the active transporters pay? They are not licensed, pay no taxes, are not insured, no mandatory bike inspection, no tests for ability to safely use the streets and know the rules of the Highway Traffic Act.

And yet, one Yvette Tendick, speaking for the Coalition, laid out their demands to be included in the 2019 Capital Budget.

The Guelph Mercury published the following profile of Yvette Tendick who joined the community editorial board in 2015.

Yvette Tendick is a primary school teacher with a bachelor of environmental studies degree. She has always had a strong interest in environmental issues. Over the years, her environmental focus has morphed from sustainability of natural ecosystems to sustainability and resilience of cities.

She is interested in the steps citizens might undertake to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels while simultaneously increasing our quality of life. She believes one way to achieve this lofty goal is through active transportation, which she engages in during her commute to work by bike or on foot.

She also has a keen interest in getting the next generation physically active, and is rather certain that city design and infrastructure are crucial to nudging all of our citizens to get moving.

Getting to the root of the deal

Now here is what she is proposing city council to do to improve cycling, aka active transportation.

  1. January 16, she told council that the city should clear up some of the trees and roots. These are putting pressure on the existing retaining wall along what will one day become a multi-use trail at Speedvale, including a proposed underpass.
  2. “So before even considering tearing down this retaining wall in a few years, a quick fix of removing the trees ASAP seems to be the first logical step in increasing the longevity of the current wall.”
  3. “Separated bike lanes are needed on Gordon from Kortright all the way to Wellington, and also on Woolwich from Woodlawn all the way to downtown,” she said.

Well, that’s a tall order.

I think after reading this report, she is asking the council to add $30,000 to the capital budget for her short term plan A to make it easier for cyclists to use the trail to downtown. Trouble is the location of this on Speedvale, some eight kilometers long, is not identified in the article. Which retaining wall? Which trees and roots? Where on Speedvale?

This is a game of assumptions that leave the rest of the citizens out of the loop.

City council, since 2007, has spent millions on developing bike lanes, reducing vehicle lanes on major routes to accommodate them.

Ms. Tendick’s profile is clear but misguided. Does she really believe that the so-called active transportation theory will work and vehicles using fossil fuels will disappear in her lifetime?

How many citizens depend on bicycles 12 months of the year?

It’s a known fact that the city has zero documentation of the number of residents using bicycles on Guelph streets and roads 12 months of the year.

The groups of environmental activists, who ride bicycles, resemble a cult bonded by the belief that they can change the way we transport ourselves while at the same time clean up the atmosphere.

I think of Kevin Costner in the movie, A Field of Dreams, in which the punch line is ‘if we build it, they will come.’

This group is the whiniest, pushy and provocateurs of social engineering for which we have already paid to placate their cause.

It is if they want to roll back society more than 150 years or, as my wife is fond of saying ‘I loved the good old days.’ Neither of us has ridden a bicycle since we were 16.

We are not alone.

How can the proponents of active bicycle transportation be so narrowly focused on the environment when most citizens cannot and never will use bicycles to get out and about?

Think of riding a bicycle to perform simple tasks such as getting groceries and needed drugs, or going to the hospital or doctor’s offices, going to the library, visiting family and friends, going to the cottage or vacation, getting to places of worship, volunteering and going to the park, theatre or your granddaughter’s recital.

Especially when it’s raining, snowing or just damned cold. It’s not a time for the Mary Poppins trick of flying under her umbrella.

Stop and think of children, seniors, the disabled, and all those outside the active transportation groups’ demographic of ages 18 to 40.

I think the expense of expanding or spending more money accommodating the cyclist group should be frozen. That is until we get the handle on our basic infrastructure needs and financial shortfall of some $450 million increasing at a rate of $20 million a year.

Has anyone calculated how much fossil fuel as been reduced as a result of building this network of bicycle lanes in the past 18 years?

We would rather be able to flush our toilet and enjoy a glass of water from the tap than paying for more bike lanes.

Are the demands of the minority greater than repairing the infrastructure of our city that serves everyone? Transportation technology is moving ahead at warp speed. Bicycles are not part of the transition.

It’s time for council to get off the Bike Bandwagon.

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It only cost Mike Schreiner $119,864 to buy a seat in the Ontario Legislature

By Gerry Barker

January 14, 2019

Opinion

Taking a look at the numbers of the recent provincial election submitted by Green Party Leader, Michael Schreiner, as reported to Elections Ontario.

All it took was a tsunami of cash for Mr. Schreiner to trample all of the other candidates in last June’s provincial election, using a boatload of money. According to Elections Ontario, the Schreiner campaign reported receiving income of $152,677.71

As reported in Guelph Today, Schreiner spent $119,864.14 to win the Guelph seat in the Ontario Legislature. He was the only Green Party candidate elected as a member to Queen’s Park. It is reported that the Green Party received some 285,000 votes across the province. It appears that Mr. Schreiner’s vote of some 29,000 in Guelph is ten per cent of the total Green Party vote cast in the province. That is impressive.

One cannot suggest that this was a stunning victory for the Greens. All he needs now are seven more Green Party candidates to attain the status of an official party in the Legislature to be recognized by the Speaker. Recently, he was quoted that he had developed friendships with an undisclosed number of PC members suggesting they may switch parties.

You have to ask the question: “ What’s in it for them?”

The Guelph Today report investigating the election finance’s story discovered that Premier Doug Ford spent $66,889.01 to get elected in the Lakeshore riding. His Progressive Conservative Party received more than 2.2 million votes, electing 73 members to the Legislature to form the government for four years.

Schreiner also spent more that Opposition Leader, Andrea Horwath, who reported spending $101,485.04 to retain her Hamilton seat and the NDP elected 40 members to the Legislature.

So, is there something wrong with this picture?

Let’s drill down into Mike Schreiner’s official financial report regarding his election submitted to Elections Ontario last September.

The Schreiner Reported Assets

His total campaign assets are $72,404.88. This is composed of cash, ($38,649.91), campaign reimbursement entitlement from 2014 civic election ($24,633.74), Accounts receivable ($1,739.90), inventory of campaign materials ($7,389.33)

Liabilities and Surplus

Accounts payable ($7,568.34), Surplus ($64,836.54 deficit). That balances with the Assets of $72,404.88.

Now here comes the interesting part under the title:

Statement of Income and Expenses from May 9 2018 to September 7, 2018

Income

Contributions                                              $58,090.43

Interest income                                                    $12.45

General Contributions at meetings                $10.00

Transfers received                                      $93,629.73

Sale of T-shirts                                                 $935.00

Total Income                                              $152,677.61

A peek at expenses

The summary of expenses includes spending $22,034.26 on salaries and benefits. Who were these paod staffers and what did they do? That’s slightly less than the total cost of the P.C. campagn supported by 14,000 votes.

Was this a case of Fort Knox against the madding crowd outside the moat, or an episode in the Game of Thrones?

Following the money, two figures catch my eye

First, the $58,090.41 in contributions does not name the contributors or the division between those donating more than $1,200 compared to those donating less. There is a specific rule about donations and contributions because some contributors do not want to be identified, but did all of them not want to be identified?

Did the campaign receive any ‘in kind’ contributions?’ This means supplying services instead of cash. Hypothetical examples could be supplying services such as courier, transporting personnel or being offered rooms or halls for for campaign meetings.

Second, the $93,629 listed as ‘Transfers Received,’ needs clarification in terms of large-scale funds transferred from where and from whom? It should be explained if for no other reason, than, to be transparent and open.

These are serious questions about financial statements such as Mr. Schreiner’s alleged association with Tides Canada. This is an environmental political action organization that has helped finance Green Party candidates in their bid to be elected to Canadian provincial governments, such as British Columbia. A province in which Tides Canada helped elect three Green Party members to the B.C. legislature.

When the grass grows, get out the lawn mower

The B.C. Green Party members hold the balance of power that supports the NDP ruling party. This has had a serious impact on the efforts of the environmental movement to halt reconstruction of the Trans-Mountain pipeline owned by the people of Canada. The renovation of the existing pipeline is to open the door to the Pacific markets for Canadian oil and natural gas.

Despite this, the environmentalists have successfully stalled the T-M construction paralyzing the process for one reason only: To halt production and export of Canadian fossil fuels to global markets.

Tides Canada is a subsidiary of Tides America that has a war chest of some $150 million to support a variety of environmental projects and sponsor political action.

Do you believe that funding of political parties and their candidates should be open and transparent? Mr. Schreiner spending $119,864 to get elected in Guelph completely smothered the financial spending of all the other candidates combined.

In my opinion, based on Mr. Schreiner’s election financial report, corporations or environmental political action committees may have helped finance the Schreiner campaign. What happens in B.C. has little relevance to the city or citizens of Guelph who are now represented by Mr. Schreiner.

But it did, as the Green party finally got a seat for the first time in the Ontario Legislative Assembly. It remains to be seen if Mr. Schreiner’s new role as a Guelph’s MPP will be beneficial to the 29,000 people who elected him.

Frankly, as a citizen, I believe Mr. Schreiner will be too busy beating his own drum to be an effective representative for Guelph.

Want proof? In all the years I worked at the Toronto Star, I never witnessed a lead editorial promoting an individual candidate as the paper did before the election. It endorsed Mike Schreiner, stating the electors in Guelph could make history electing him. And it did, with possibly a little help from his friends from far away.

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Gelph’s Green MPP ignites the fears of Climate Change at Carden Street rally

By Gerry Barker

September 10, 2018

Will that be regular or high test?

An estimated 250 people turned up at a Climate Change rally on Carden Street last Saturday. They heard the one and only MPP Mike Schreiner, proclaimed Ontario leader of the one-man Green Party in the Ontario Legislature, press the “right” environmentalist buttons to the assembled crowd.

Or was that the “left button?”

Here’s a trip down memory lane.

I remember the comment by former councillor Maggie Laidlaw 10 years ago and I’m paraphrasing: “In 20 years there won’t be any cars on Guelph streets.”

Well, Maggie, ten years later there are more cars, trucks and buses on our streets than ever, creating traffic congestion and lack of downtown core parking. Even the number of gas stations has been reduced.

Since the Maggie opinion, some 12,000 new residents have chosen Guelph as their home. In 10 years the city staff has increased by 650. Go figure.

At the time, Maggie was an ardent proponent of commuting to work, rain or shine, on her bicycle. She advocated that the bicycle was the precursor of active transportation in Guelph making some of us with well-muscled calves and thighs.

City council went along with this theory and in 2007 started spending millions on bike lanes, particularly on major streets. In 2009 alone more than $2 million was spent putting bike lanes on Stone Road. Each year since, the city has spent $300,000 developing bike lanes.

That project, along with a new time clock in the Sleeman Centre, was financed by a special infrastructure grant divided between the federal and provincial governments and the city. The city’s share was $26 million but it did not have the money. So, it called a note for $30 million owed by Guelph Hydro. Details of spending the money were never really disclosed. It is known that there was little left of the cash infusion.

To bolster their decision to reduce vehicle emissions, council agreed to repave a number of major roads with four lanes for vehicles, and remarking the finished product with two lanes disappearing, wider bike lanes and a left turn centre lane.

Are you starting to see the source of traffic congestion and inadequate parking? Truth to tell is that money went into environmental projects that were poorly planned and executed. The city now called it the District Energy plan that included supplying hot and cold water to five buildings adjacent to the Sleeman Centre using experimental thermal underground technology.

Guelph’s expensive war on vehicles

Bike lanes, solar panels on public buildings, street lane squeezing and plans to build large scale natural gas generating plants to make the city self sufficient in terms of electricity, contributed to millions being misspent. Inspired by former mayor, Karen Farbridge, the spending under under the Community Energy Innovation cost the city millions.

The trouble with these “climate change” developments was a lack of statistical information about the use of the bike lanes. Even more important was that many of these arbitrary changes resulted in a marked bike lane starting at one point and ending before the end of the street. Examples are Stevenson, Silver Creek, Downey and Woolwich.

Today, the city still has a $400 million under-funded infrastructure deficit that is being handled through a property tax levy of one per cent or $4.4 million each year. In the 2018 budget, half of that is coming from reserve funds and the remainder from property taxpayers.

At that rate, it will take 99.9 years to clear the deficit. But that’s not inflation adjusted or available reserves for catastrophic weather events.

If the University of Guelph just paid its share of property taxes based on that paid by property owners in the city, that is adjusted annually, that money would help restore fairness and make our city stronger financially and more livable.

Linamar, employing some 6,000 workers, pays its share of property taxes. Why is making auto parts any different than graduating students? Guelph residents subsidize the University but not Linamar.

The active transportation crowd or cyclists use city streets at no cost. Many do not pay taxes, and their numbers are unknown by city staff. There was one staff report of a count of traffic on Downey Road of cyclists and vehicles. It was an independent study that revealed in an eight-hour period there were some 900 cyclists using Downey Road and 4,700 vehicles.

The tail is wagging the dog

If this is any indication that the tail is wagging the dog, I don’t know what is.

Climate Change is caused by many factors as fossil fuel use is slowly diminishing. The carbon dioxide emissions of the 400 active volcanoes in the world plus excessive destruction of forested lands, heavy use of coal in many countries including India and China are major contributors of climate change.

Of course the growing world population and growth of the middle class in under-developed countries, places enormous pressure to generate power now leading into a new era of more responsible use of power generation sources.

Finally, the earth is going through a natural change over which we have no control.

Instead we should be concerned about how our city, our province and our country are being managed.

We have just experienced a major change in the provincial government. Next month we have the opportunity to elect a responsible civic government in Guelph. Next year we will elect a new government in Ottawa.

These are opportunities to express your desire by more democratic representation.

It’s now our turn to change.

 

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Welcome the new Green Guelph province with one Party, one member and no voice

By Gerry Barker

June 11, 2018

Guelph – Those 29,000 voters, who just elected Mike Schreiner as their member of the Provincial Legislature, have awkwardly created their exclusive Don Quixote attacking the Blue windmills of populism.

We’re Green and not has-beens.

Guelph has become the orphan of provincial politics by electing the Green Part leader with no comrades in the Legislature to support its Green agenda. When you think about it, the Toronto Star got its way and a majority of Guelph voters believed they were making history.

Star columnists Heather Mallick and Robin Sears did their best to convict Premier-elect Doug Ford because of a seventh inning lawsuit for alleged fraudulent handling of Rob Ford’s estate. Renata Ford’s, widow of Rob Ford filed the $16.5 million lawsuit five days before the election.

Before any evidence to support the lawsuit was presented in court, Heather Mallick convicted Doug Ford basically because she didn’t like him. Well, the huge majority of voter in the province didn’t agree. He won so let’s move on.

“Stop Doug Ford” rang throughout the province advocated by Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, who threw in the towel before the election campaign ended June 7.

However a $1.4 billion miscalculation in costing the NDP program that included more spending than the Liberals, helped doom the so-called Orange Surge of the party in the polls.

That was some prediction that most polls missed by a country mile except the one run by Global news. Two weeks before the election it predicted 70 seats for the PC’s, 49 for the NDP, four for the Liberals and one for the Green Party.

How close was it? PC 76, NDP 40, Liberals 7 and the Greek Machine, one.

By one estimate, in winning the Guelph seat, Mr. Schreiner spent more than all the other candidates combined. When Elections Ontario releases the official financial statements, we will know at how much it cost and who sponsored the Green Party victory.

In other words, it will be an interesting exercise to follow the money.

It won’t take The Green Party leader’s supporters long following his swearing in, to discover he has little to say stuck in the corner of the Legislature along with the seven Liberals. Maybe he’ll pick up some pointers from the seven deposed Liberals. Neither Schreiner nor the Liberals have official party status.

When you are a party of one, you are not recognized as an official party. This means there is no allowance for staff research or other perks of the job.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, those folks who voted for Mr. Schreiner threw away the opportunity for real change. Mr. Schreiner ran a powerful and well -financed campaign focused on him and a middle of the road program if elected.

What’s alarming to me is that a majority of people fell for it. It’s not just a dearth of critical thinking that the Ontario Legislature requires a party to have a majority of seats to form a government. The Green party was not even close.

I am reminded of the old argument raised by the NDP, protesting the system of determining a winner, contesting any seat is to be “first past the post.” This means the candidate with the most votes’ wins. That certainly worked for Mr. Schreiner.

But the nagging bellowing of changing the system of voting in Ontario to adopting “proportional voting” in which a voter must grade their first, second and third choice when completing their ballot. Points give each of those choices in order of the number of votes, and are accounted in the final tally.

The Trudeau Liberals election promised electoral reform when they won 183 seats in the House of Commons three years ago.

But the proposal died when clearer heads prevailed.

Besides, if progressive activist Susan Watson supports proportional voting, I have to stop and think. It just echoes NDP policy because the party has never won an Ontario election since Bob Rae defeated the David Peterson government eons ago.

British Columbia uses a proportional voting system. The result is the NDP minority government being propped up by three members of the Green Party. The NDP’s sole interest at the moment is to stop reconstruction of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Unfortunately, Mr. Schreiner will not enjoy that position at Queens Park.

Yes, Guelph voters spoke volumes about how they believe the province should be run.

But all they have accomplished is to create a Sanctuary City where Green progressive are welcome to dip their beaks in the public treasury.

The outcome of the election decided otherwise and Guelph is an island floating in a sea of Blue representing “green” policies rejected by the vast majority of electors in the province.

Indeed, we are stuck in the middle of the Province with only one member representing our interests in the Legislature. He is a man who has no support of Green Party members in the Legislature, no recognition as an official party, and with minimal influence on the Ford government to serve those voters who elected him.

I sure don’t like those odds.

Welcome to the Green province of Guelph.

 

 

 

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